1. Is Chase Daniel seen as a big step down from Mitch Trubisky? Or are there some who believe the Bears offense will be as good or better with Chase Daniel behind center?
Let’s answer the second question first. Are the some who believe the offense is better with Chase Daniel? Yes. There are also some people that believe the earth is flat so...
I like Chase Daniel. He’s a competent backup who provides solid mentorship to Mitchell Trubisky. There’s nothing in his 10-year NFL career history to suggest that he’s going to suddenly blossom into a top 15 starter. He has the ability to manage this offense efficiently and effectively but is not someone who you want to lean on to create a big play on his own or lead a comeback. With a fantastic defense and playmakers around him on the offense, I believe in his ability to manage this offense to victory in a game like the one against the Raiders.
What I think some people confuse between a solid backup like Daniel and a young player like Trubisky who is still figuring things out is comparing Daniel’s ceiling to Trubisky’s floor. If you’re asking me would I rather have Daniel’s best game or Trubisky’s worst, I’m obviously taking Daniel. The question Bears fans should be asking is, over the course of a 16 game season, what type of QB gives you the best chance to stack wins and allow you to make a deep playoff run? As bad as Trubisky started in 2019, I think he’s still the answer this year if he can return from his injury. However, part of what made Trubisky effective in 2018 was his running ability and you have to question how much of that he’ll be allowed to do returning from injury. Depending on how the rest of 2019 plays out, the Bears may have an interesting decision to make in 2020.
2. What or who is the straw that stirs the drink on that vaunted Bears defense?
Well, obviously everyone in Raiders Nation (and the NFL) knows the answer to this question. It’s Khalil Mack. Simply put, he’s been everything I hoped for as a player plus he’s a humble guy that is quick to praise his teammates. He seems to really like Chicago and adding him to the pantheon of Hall of Fame linebackers is an absolute joy. There simply isn’t another franchise or fanbase the Raiders could have traded him to that would enjoy his play more than the Bears. When I attended Bears training camp this year, about half the fans wearing jerseys were sporting #52. He’s in good hands.
What he does on the field by himself is on another level. He’s ripping through double teams consistently, drawing holding penalties with regularity, and obviously creating pressures, sacks, and turnovers. What’s more, is that the attention he merits allows other talented players advantageous matchups. Guys like Nick Williams, Roy Robertson-Harris, Akiem Hicks, Eddie Goldman, and his bookend Leonard Floyd are all better because of him. That pressure then makes the secondary that much better, allowing guys like Kyle Fuller and Prince Amukamara to be more aggressive and Eddie Jackson and Ha Ha Clinton-Dix to clean up whatever is left. Simply put, he’s the best defender in football.
3. If there is a weak spot on that defense the Raiders could exploit, what is it?
No one has found it yet this year unless you plan on elevating Tottenham Stadium to a mile above sea level or reducing the oxygen levels to get that Denver altitude advantage. I’ve said it to every other site in these exchanges - the Bears defense is going to make you earn it. You probably won’t find a lot of success on the ground, you won’t have a lot of time in the pocket, and don’t expect uncontested catches. So, a quick passing game and a lot of blitz beaters like screens will help move the ball. Be patient, be comfortable trying to play field position, and then throw a hurry-up attack at them when Mack is taking a series off.
I’m sure some team down the road will expose something in this defense at some point, but I just haven’t seen anything sustainable yet. That might be some homer-ism talking but they’ve been really impressive so far.
4. No one talks about the offense. Is it underrated? If so, what is their strong suit?
Well, no one talks about the offense right now because it isn’t good. I feel like I talk about the offense all the time on my podcast Bears Over Beers (Listen! Subscribe!) but it’s mostly about what isn’t working. The 2018 offense got better as the season went along and showcased Matt Nagy’s creative playcalling. Early in 2019, he’s been oscillating between “too cute” and predictable. At least he’s finally figured out that David Montgomery is the lead back and is ready for a full load. Maybe it was just a case of working in the rookie slowly, but Montgomery barely saw the field in Week 1.
It is decidedly not underrated and probably isn’t getting enough attention for how bad it’s been. What I think they could do well is pound the ball with David Montgomery and throw intermediate passes to Allen Robinson II and Taylor Gabriel. Robinson looks like a true WR1 as he’s consistently beating coverage and making contested catches even when he is covered. When things were going well last year, the Bears got a lot of big plays out of Tarik Cohen matched up on linebackers, taking advantage of his elite speed and elusiveness. There’s an offense inside of that, the Bears just haven’t figured out how to consistently put it all together yet.
5. Give me one under-the-radar player who we should be looking out for in this game.
I’ll give you one on each side of the ball. I think one of the guys I mentioned earlier, Roy Robertson-Harris, is emerging as a significant complementary piece on this defensive line. He’s already recorded 2.5 sacks on the season. Signed in 2016 as an undrafted free agent from Texas El Paso, “RRH” made 13 appearances in 2017, 16 in 2018, and now has two starts under his belt. He’s the type of success story that allows teams to be successful - developing in-house talent into positive contributors. On offense, I think this game sets up well for Anthony Miller to have success with Chase Daniel under center. I think he’ll find success over the middle of the field on crossing routes. Miller has been a little frustrated with his lack of targets thus far in the season and the All-22 tape reveals why. He’s consistently open and the ball just isn’t finding him. I have a feeling that changes on Sunday.